Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reflection - 9/30/14

This week is the last week that we have to "explore" our topics for the ALAR project.

I'm definitely going to be working to collaborate with the public library and school media center to link up Overdrive and student devices.

I'm more out of the explore phase and working on planning out what I have left to do.

Here's where I am:

1. Need to talk to my school media specialist about what she has already planned.
2. E-mail Jesse Gibson, Director of the Sandhills Public Library System, about his plans for Overdrive.
3. Inventory student devices.
4. Student survey on reading and technology
5. Links on school website
6. Find out about getting every student a public library card???
7. Downloading the app onto my personal e-reader and begin playing with the technology
8. How much would it cost to get Overdrive as part of the school media center? Worth it budget wise?

I think that's a pretty solid list. I'm getting a little nervous again. I wonder if I could really impact students with this idea. I think that more boys would read if it wasn't out of a paper book. They enjoy reading in my class, even if it is Shakespeare.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Blog - LIB 5050 - Due 9/23/14

We had our Learning Set meeting tonight. I felt like it was a struggle to really start talking about the project. I eventually started asking questions of my group members and was quickly reminded that that's not what we stated as the "norm" for our group. We decided to let each person explain how their week had gone - 10-15 minutes worth of talking. We quickly realized that 10-15 minutes is a lot of time for someone to talk about their exploration so far, so we decided to explain our project and then get feedback.

There were several times during the process that I had to get clarification from a group member about what they were planning to do for their project. It looks like we have a lot of technological issues at one of the schools and it's hard to figure out what to do when you have so many things to choose from. Another group member had the complete opposite problem: Her school has very little technology, especially in the media center. I feel very blessed to be at a school with a good amount of technology and an IMPACT team that constantly searches for the next appropriate amount of technology we need to acquire each year.

I really am thinking that I'm going to focus the project on the collaboration between the public and school library + Overdrive + Nooks + smartphones and tablets. I think it has the potential to be a really neat, very real project for my school. Audra even suggested that if it goes well, it could be something I present at the NCSMLC conference next year. How awesome would that be? I love that everyone loved the project. I do wish for some ideas on how to get started though. That's my biggest concern at the moment. Where in the world do I start? I think I need to sit down with my media coordinator and ask her for her input. Maybe it would be smart to set up a meeting with the director of our library too and see what Mr. Gibson thinks about the whole process.

I'm excited!!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Blog - Due 9/16/14

We are supposed to be reflecting on the exploration phase of the Action Service/Action Learning project.

Up until tonight, I've mostly spent my time freaking out over the fact that I couldn't think of anything to do. Finally, I got in to see Dr. Moe at our scheduled appointment in her office. I thought I was going to have to have her go back through the whole project from start to finish. Once she got started, I realized that I understood the project itself. It was just my anxiety was preventing me from narrowing down topics. Basically, my head was going "technology....now what...."

We started by talking about my interview with my school librarian. What were the technology issues that were mentioned? I came up with three biggies: Nooks that are underutilized, technology only being used as a method of display in some classrooms, and "stuff" not working correctly. After talking about these issues, we were able to come up with several neat ideas that I could use for my project.

1. Write a grant that would "fix" the technological issues my school is dealing with.
2. Restructure the organization of technology to have computer carts that are more adequate for the uses - i.e. figure out a way to get 30 laptops on a cart or figure out how to fully stock a computer lab.
3. Collaborate with the public library, which has just become an Overdrive library, to somehow infuse technology (Nooks and devices that students already have) in their reading habits.
4. Develop a technology relationship with another teacher. Use them as a "guinea pig" of sorts. Have them branch out and use more technology while "advertising" to other staff what we are doing...how the students are reacting, etc.

I love that I have ideas now. I was drawing a blank, seriously. Sometimes, it's nice to just sit and bounce ideas off of someone. I'm honestly leaning more toward the idea with Overdrive because I am familiar with the technology and the companies involved. I also really believe in the idea that bringing in more technology and pairing it with literacy is good for middle schoolers, specifically. I hope this is something that could really happen. All of the libraries in the Sandhills district already have Overdrive. All the kids need is a library card and a device with the app downloaded, which is really neat. This would be a good way to utilize the Nooks that just sit there, gathering dust.

I have so many good ideas bouncing around in my head now. Thank God for Dr. Moeller's office hours. I highly advise everyone in class to go sit and talk to her. It helps!!! A LOT!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reflecting on the Action Learning Project (What has happened thus far)...

This week, we were asked to blog about what we might want to explore for our action learning process. I know we are supposed to get our topics approved by Dr. Moe, but I have no idea where to begin. Projects like this freak me out in that they are so wide open. Really messes with my anxiety.

My initial response to the project was to figure out what I might want to explore. Immediately, I began to think about using social media to promote the school library. Social media, technology, etc. The idea of using technology to make students and parents more aware of the media center. I also was thinking about using technology to create some kind of center of resources for students and parents alike to use to improve reading, math, social studies, and science skills. 

The idea of technology and the library fascinates me. I don't know if I'm thinking like a media specialist or like a twenty-four year old kid, but the idea of using more technology is exciting in general. There are several things that a library could do with technology: promotion, publicity, technology based competitions, research, online tutoring, etc. 

I think...well, I think I'm stuck. I honestly think I need to come to office hours and talk more about the project because I'm at a loss as to where to start. I need help in narrowing my focus. From what I understand, this has to be something that I'm actually doing as well as learning from.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Interview: Technology and the Library

Interview: Technology and the Library
            Technology is becoming more and more useful, especially for librarians and library patrons. In order to fully understand the role of technology in the library, specifically a school, I interviewed the media specialist at Hamlet Middle School, Karen Brewer. She has been working at Hamlet Middle School for four years and has been a media specialist for much longer than that. Before becoming a media specialist, she was a teacher. She taught before technology was common in schools and is now a media specialist that has seen technology come in, be upgraded and enhanced, and be used by kids of all learning abilities.
            First, I wanted to know about the budget for purchasing new technology. I asked Mrs. Brewer how much money is allotted each year to purchase technology and equipment for the library. She explained that the budget comes from the state instructional/state library fund. For the 2014-15 school year, she has been given a budget of $9000. All technology, subscriptions, books, management, or other purchases have to come out of that $9000. This led me to ask about the process for choosing what types of technology to purchase or use for that particular library. She said that the technology that is purchased all depends on what the specific need is at the time. I asked how it is determined that a specific piece of technology will meet a need. She replied, “We try to research prior to purchasing. There have been some goofs like when items were fond to not be ready for testing or not allowed on testing.” An example of a need might be to purchase a MacBook Pro to manage all of the iPads for the school. Computers are currently out of her specific budget and will have to be acquired elsewhere. There is a group of computers that suggest items for the school, as far as technology is concerned. There is also a committee that meets regularly about technology. The final decision ultimately rests with the school administration and the staff at the county Central Office.
            This information led me to my next question. I asked Mrs. Brewer what technology she currently has in the media center. She said that the Hamlet Middle School media center has twenty student computers, two teacher computers, a SMARTboard, video cameras, nine Nooks, projectors, a poster maker, and a printer. The poster maker is for staff but the librarian uses it. Video cameras and spare projectors may be checked out. Computers are used to research, locate books with the Alexandria system, print student and teacher work, and general internet-based assignments. Mrs. Brewer said that, of all of that technology, the computers are the most used and the cameras are the least used. “All technology is used to incorporate the standards that are being taught in all classes,” she explained. This means that she tries to make all of the technology available that she possibly can. I wanted to know how often the media center’s technology is used. Brewer sighed and explained that the computer lab in the media center is on a flexible schedule, which means “the first to sign up, gets it.” There is another open computer lab in the school, but it’s only partially working, so the eighth grade teachers closest to it generally use it.
            Naturally, I then had questions about the support and management of all of this technology. I asked Mrs. Brewer who handles problems regarding technology. She said that teachers try to troubleshoot problems first, then the computer teachers or librarian tries to fix it. If neither teacher nor computer teacher nor librarian is successful, they have to submit a work order and get county personnel to come out to the school. “On site, we do the best we can, but we really have limited rights to fix any network issue. The technology staff – four members – does a good job, but they service the entire county,” she explained. I also wanted to know how she manages all of the technology in the library. She said that most equipment is inventoried, so it is managed through the library system. Teachers are allowed to check out equipment, and she keeps track of that through the system as well. My next question was about the process to remove obsolete technology. Brewer said, “If it’s not a fixed asset item [that’s worth over $500 at the time of purchase], the item can be thrown out. If it’s a fixed asset item, it must be retired and then is removed from inventory and auctioned.”
            My last few questions were all about the use of technology. I first asked whether technology is used effectively or is just for show. I wanted to know if it really enhanced lessons or if it was being used just because it is “supposed to be” used. She replied very courteously to her teachers at her school and simply said that it depends on the teacher as to whether or not it is used for show. She explained that technology is being used as one of the major methods of communicating information to students and she can’t imagine not using technology throughout most of the school day. My next question was whether or not technology has ever proved to be a hindrance or if she has ever seen technology go unused. She said that the Nooks that are in the library are rarely used. This is because “students want complete access to accounts to buy the books they want and we do not have that kind of funds.” There is another complaint with the Nooks: they do not allow internet access. “We were only allowed to order the simple touch Nooks. Our Nook Colors cannot be monitored, so we do not allow them to be checked out by students.” She went on to express that she feels like this is one of the situations mentioned earlier in the interview where they ordered something before really looking into how it would or could be used. They ended up being a waste of funding.

            To end the interview, I asked two more questions. The first was how the digitizing of material was affecting the future of the library as an institute. She laughed and said, “oh, I get this question all the time!” Brewer believes that there are people who will never give up their books. They are attached to the “touch, smell, and security of books.” The cost of digital material is quite high when compared to having a physical copy. There are other people who are ready to jump in and completely convert to all technology and no paper. “I still see the library as a brick and mortar building but transitioning to a more social meeting place to acquire and share information.” I loved this answer. Finally, I asked her to name three things that her library would have in a perfect world. She laughed, again, and said “mobile and flexible furniture, enough technology for every person in the school, and an unlimited budget.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Analysis of Technology and the School Media Center

For class this week, we were required to interview a librarian about the role of technology in the media center or library. I decided to interview the media specialist at my home school - Hamlet Middle School.

There was a lot that I didn't know. I thought I was more knowledgable about the processes for using, managing, and removing technology than I really was. For example, I learned that technology can be thrown out. Yes, you read that right, thrown out. If it was worth less than $500 when it was purchased, it can just be "gotten rid of." However, if it's a fixed asset, it will be auctioned later. I had no idea that the school did technology auctions. Who buys old, obsolete technology??? Maybe that is just coming from a youngster who only wants new and usable stuff. 

I knew about all of the technology that we had in the media center - computers, Nooks, SMARTboard, projectors, cameras - but I didn't know how often it was being used. From what we discussed, it sounds like there is rarely someone in the library using the computers. This made me wonder how often I can push and get my class in there. If it's sitting there, not being used, I WANT IN! I fight over laptops upstairs, so if I can just travel to the media center, I'm game. I would be about three computers short for my biggest class, but I always have students who want to do their assignments on paper. It works out.

Something that bothers me about this interview was how to handle broken or malfunctioning technology. For the entire county, there are only four people who are equipped to do repairs.  Four. FOUR! This helps me understand the long wait when we submit a technological work order. For example, there are currently four laptops on the cart assigned to my team that do not work. I have tried to fix them as has the media specialist. Nothing can be done until they are reimaged, at the very least. The only people with those capabilities are required to do other orders for the whole county. If we are moving into a more technological age, shouldn't we have more people who have the ability to repair computer issues?

Budget is an issue, again. The school media center always gets the short end of the stick with the budget, I feel like. I remember from another class I've taken (one from the summer with Dr. Veltze) that the school library budget is supposed to be very large, but never is. $9000 for everything may sound like a lot of money, but it goes fast. Between weeding out old material and replacing it with something better, subscriptions to magazines and online services/databases, upkeep on technology and other equipment needed, etc. the budget is gone. Imagine the amazing things that the school media center could do if it was given budget that it could really work with.

I think that this interview really just served to frustrate me a little. I'm inspired as well, because I can see the potential for beautiful things to be done in the media center with technology, but I'm frustrated because the media center is so separate from everything else. I wish I knew how to explain it...